Over the past decade or so, it’s become clear to me that there are four steps most entrepreneurs need to go through to have their marketing feel good (to themselves and potential clients) and to be effective.
My goal in this letter is to help you understand a bit more about how I see marketing in an overall sense (for what it’s worth), see if I’m a fit to help you and help you to clarify your own understanding of marketing (much more important).
Step 1: Marketing 101
The first step is to get a basic understanding of marketing.
Most conscious entrepreneurs are a bit allergic to marketing. They don’t like it and what it stands for.
And, being real, they’d rather just do their work and have someone else handle the marketing for them.
To make matters worse, they’re usually too close to their own business to see their situation clearly.
But worst of all, they have no idea how to market their business in a way that gets them more of the kinds of clients they want, without spending a fortune to do it (or selling their soul). This results in so much confusion and frustration.
If you check out my blog, you’ll see that there are around 500 posts on this site but I wanted to sit down and write you a letter to ensure that you were directed to what I feel are the dozen or so most foundational, important and essential things you could learn that could make the biggest difference in your marketing.
But where to start in learning a new way of marketing?
At the heart of it, I’m a believer in the idea of slow marketing.
We live, increasingly, in a fast-food world. Everything has become rushed, instant and lightning quick. And that’s affected our expectations. We think marketing should give us instant results too. We want to be able to press a few buttons and immediately have more clients. And it’s hardly our fault, it’s what we’re being promised constantly: instant results, a flood of clients, six figures quickly.
And, while I also know and teach some ‘fast marketing‘ ideas, those are only the tip of the marketing iceberg. I believe that the vast majority of our marketing must be slow. Because that’s how life ultimately works. Marketing tends to be seen as the conquest of ‘space’ – dominating more and more geographic area, owning more niches, growing our business wider and wider. But marketing must also happen over time. And go deep. As Gandhi said, ‘there is more to life than simply increasing its speed.’ I believe that slow marketing is, ultimately, more human, longer lasting, more effective and more profitable.
I think that part of what screws marketing up is the secret agenda to ‘get the sale’.
In fact, any secret agendas can screw us up.
I think the best marketing is totally upfront and transparent.
Step Two: Identifying Your Niche
Once you have a basic grasp of the heart of how marketing can work and be different, you need to make some choices about who you are trying to reach (even though it’s tempting to want to try and reach everyone).
And this takes us to the primary question of identifying your niche.
I believe that the only agenda that works the desire to know the truth of whether or not what you’re offering is a genuine fit for the potential client.
If your agenda is to ‘get the sale’ you will push them. If the agenda is for them to ‘like you’ then you will collapse. If your agenda is for them to ‘respect and value you’ then you will posture. If your agenda is only to see if there’s a real fit between you two then you will be composed.
But all of that lifts up the questions, ‘Do you really know who would be a perfect fit for you as a client?’
Over the years, I’ve found that our deepest wounds and struggles are often a doorway into our most truest niches. And that there’s a single question you can ask yourself that seems to help people find it faster than anything I know. I think that niching can heal you.
Step 3: Clarifying Your Platform
The confused mind says ‘no’.
In marketing, the most important goal is clarity.
If people aren’t clear what you do or who you help or what you’re about, they just won’t hire you.
Clarity is power in marketing and most entrepreneurs I meet are only 10% as clear as they could be.
And the most important thing to get clear about is what you want to be known for.
Your platform is what you’re known for. It’s the DNA of your business. It’s the blueprints you build everything from. And it’s the heart of whether your business comes across clearly and authentically to others. The challenge with most people’s platforms is that they are flat, uninspiring, confusing and occasionally feel really gross. They’re often one dimensional. You want your platform to be crystal clear but with some depth. There are six elements of a strong platform (plus a new thought I’ve been having about identifying your message) and most entrepreneurs only ever focus on one (almost always the same one). I believe that one of the most useful exercises you can do is to sum up your platform in a single page.
At the heart of marketing, you’re offering people a journey from Island A (where they don’t want to be) to Island B (where they’re craving to be). Sometimes you’re also offering them Island C (a new, brighter possibility they might have never considered). And sometimes you’ll need to be aware of their Island Z (the fears that keep them from even looking at their issue). Your business is like the boat that takes them from one island to the other. But the reason they want to get on your boat has a lot to do with your map and the route you plan from one island to the other – your point of view. And what will inspire them to work with you is when they get the deeper cause and bigger vision that your business is about that they share.
That’s the heart of it: ‘I can take you on this journey from one island to another’. If they trust that you can do that better than anyone else, they will hire you and buy from you.
But all most entrepreneurs do is talk about how fancy their boat is and try to push everyone to get on board.
When your platform is clear, the rest of marketing becomes so incredibly easy for you.
But, when it’s fuzzy, expect to struggle.
But as this gets clearer, you’re ready for the final step . . .
Step 4: Becoming a Hub
It’s one thing to know what you’d like to be known for and it’s another thing to actually be known for those things.
There’s the old saying that it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.
But, I’d take it a step further: it’s who knows what you know.
The idea of becoming a hub is to become like the hub of a wheel – where all the spolks connect. You become the center of a certain community, the trusted advisor or got to person.
That’s the idea.
The goal is to make it really easy to find you and safe to approach you. Most businesses actually make it very hard to be found and hard for people to spread the word. You want to make it almost impossible to miss you.
Your paths are the ways people find you (e.g. social media, ads, PR, networking, speaking, writing etc.).
And the clearest way I know to use paths effectively so that your ideal clients can find you is to identify your hubs. There are some videos you can watch on this too. Using hubs in your marketing is what I call warm marketing. Trying to convince total strangers to pay you money is what I call cold marketing. And cold marketing doesn’t work very well. Warm marketing, the strategic use of hubs, works very well.
Word of mouth will always be the most powerful force in marketing and so focusing your efforts on delighting your existing clients is, hands down, the best long term strategy (watch some videos here). But some people are much more connected and respected than others. Clearly a raving endorsement from a client of yours who no one really knows or likes will not have as much impact as someone like Oprah Winfrey endorsing you. Oprah is a powerful hub. But, in your city, industry and niche there are hubs too. You can do ‘cold’ marketing all day long (e.g. cold calls, direct mail, bill boards etc.) but it won’t be a fraction as effective as what I call ‘warm’ marketing where you are introduced to your ideal clients by others (hubs).
And of course there’s a level even beyond warm marketing – where you become a hub.
Being a hub is like being a host. You’re inviting people into you space. Which means we need to talk about something I call, your container. Most entrepreneurs overlook this. Once people find you . . . then what? You must make it safe for people to approach you and want to engage with you. You must make it really easy for them to get to know you at their own pace. This often means giving them some free samples of your work like the pink spoons you might find at an ice cream shop. But, like the ice cream shop, you can’t only give out pink spoons. You need to sell ice cream in single, double and triple scoops. You need to sell buckets and ice cream cakes. A yoga studio needs free classes to attract students but also drop ins, monthly passes, weekend retreats and teacher trainings. On your website, it’s vital to have some ‘free gifts‘ that you can offer people so they can get to know you without having to opt in to anything.
The container is about your business being safe to approach but also sustainable for you. If the paths are like water faucets and water is more clients and money then your container is like a bucket, and most entrepreneurs have a very unattractive and leaky bucket.
For most entrepreneurs there are ten fundamental elements of their container I’d advise them to work on pulling together.
You need all three: platform, paths and a container.
There’s a lot to think about in marketing.
It can take some time. Most people over estimate what they can do in a year but underestimate what they can do in a decade.
I wish you well in your journey. I hope that you are found by the perfect people, at the perfect time and in the most perfect ways.